Choosing to leave the country during the Christmas break has cost several Alberta MLAs their committee positions, seen the resignation of Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard as minister of municipal affairs and saw Premier Jason Kenney asked his chief of staff, Jamie Huckabay, to step down.
Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon has been stripped from his position as parliamentary secretary for civil society, while Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan has been removed from Treasury Board.
Three MLAs — Calgary-Peigan's Tanya Fir, Tany Yao of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, and Lesser Slave Lake's Pat Rehn — have been removed from legislature committees.
Mayor Jeff Genung was disappointed to hear the MLAs choose to travel out of the country because it displayed a lack of leadership on many fronts, including supporting the Alberta economy.
"Not many people are talking about how those funds that they used to travel outside of our province, their communities, could have been spent in their communities. We're so vocal right now in talking about shopping local, preserving business, and sending the message 'our local economy needs us', and then to go and take those funds and put them outside of the country in some of those cases I think was really tone-deaf to what we're asking the rest of Albertans to do."
Before this, Genung said he did enjoy the time he spent with Allard while she was municipal affairs minister.
"The small time that I spent with her, I enjoyed her company, I thought she was making some good strides in that portfolio, and I was excited to work further with her in the future."
However, Genung wasn't impressed with the statement she made upon returning to Alberta.
"It's easy for me to say--I don't like to pick on people--but this was a pretty blatant disregard for what's going on in the province."
Transportation Minister Ric McIver will take over municipal affairs until a new minister is appointed, Kenney said. Larry Kaumeyer, the current principal secretary, will serve as interim chief of staff.
Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie has issued a written statement on the matter.
"I would like to assure all constituents that I personally did not leave the country or province over the holidays and adhered to rules outlines by our public health officials," states Guthrie. "My time was spent quietly at home in Cochrane with my wife and kids."
"I do understand the very real sacrifices many have had to endure due to this pandemic and I fully appreciate the frustration constituents have expressed."
Besides pointing to the statement of Premier Jason Kenney, he spoke warmly of the people in his constituency, calling them resilient, caring, and determined.
"Pleased be assured that I continue to have Airdrie-Cochrane residents’ interest as my main priority and will continue to advocate for our communities."
Allard returns to Alberta on Dec. 31 and called the decision to travel to Hawaii an incredible lapse of judgement on her part during a Jan. 1 media teleconference.
“There was no malicious intent," she stated. "However, I caused damage, and for that, I’m truly sorry. I’m sorry to the Albertans that trusted me that feel that they can’t at this time.”
Ric McIver isn't expected to hold the municipal affairs portfolio too long, given his responsibility as Transportation minister, but he comes to the position well acquainted with Cochrane's goals and ambitions.